Family Matters

Charlie Sheen’s Twins Are Taken Away from Him. What Happens Now?

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Photo via Newscom

Let’s imagine that a father of two young kids is an unemployed drug user with a penchant for porn stars and bikini models. Say the porn stars/models double as nannies, the mom has battled the bottle herself, and the kids — twin boys who turn 2 this month — are, as Charlie Sheen said in a recent interview with celebrity website TMZ, “in there somewhere.”

In where??? Sheen, who is among television’s highest-paid actors, pointed to his L.A. home — he calls it “Sober Valley Lodge” because he claims he’s kicked his drug addiction within its confines — that he had shared with the boys and the young ladies he calls “goddesses”until a judge spoiled the party Tuesday evening.

The twins’ mother, Brooke Mueller, received temporary custody after she submitted a statement that Sheen had threatened her, saying: “I will cut your head off, put it in a box and send it to your mom,” according to TMZ. A judge also granted Mueller — who is attending an outpatient substance abuse program — a temporary restraining order mandating Sheen keep his distance. Police removed the twins from Sheen’s home Tuesday night; Mueller says she will care for them four hours a day. Her mother will be in charge the rest of the time. (More on Can You Use Crack ‘Socially?’ Addiction Myth Watch: Charlie Sheen Edition)

It’s just one more chink in the predictability upon which young children thrive. On Tuesday, Sheen had described his “domestic bliss” to NBC’s Jeff Rossen, explaining that his two paramours had been pitching in and helping with childcare. “If I can’t be there, they’re there,” he said.

Might it be time for Child Protective Services to get involved? Um, yes, recommends Susan Abbott, a child psychiatrist in Manhattan and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “There absolutely can be a lasting effect” of poor parenting, she says. “A parent who is unstable is unable to provide the emotional nurturing, the attention needed to maintain significant healthy attachment and the development of trust.”

A dispatcher who answered the phone at the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services on Tuesday said she couldn’t release information about whether Sheen was under investigation.

In the meantime, Sheen has been busy loudly extolling the virtues of his lithe, blonde Aphrodites. “These women don’t judge me,” he told NBC. “They don’t — they don’t — they don’t lead with their own needs all the time.”

Caring for young children is all about putting your needs on hold. So maybe Sheen had indeed found good babysitter material in his hotties. It’s far from clear that Mueller, his ex-wife, is a step up in terms of parenting. Sheen — clearly no clarion voice of reason himself — says she has yet to sober up sufficiently. (More on Time.comAddict or Bipolar? Examining the ‘Passion’ of Charlie Sheen)

“So, either he’s the biggest crackpot calling the kettle black or she’s worse off than he is (which we immensely doubt!),” according to celebrity gossip-monger Perez Hilton’s blog, where he urges Sheen’s dad and brother to swoop in and rescue the tots. “God, isn’t there any other options [sic] for these kids? Martin Sheen? Emilio?! Anyone? Someone step in here!!!”

Sheen’s personal life has careered from bad to worse in the past several weeks and months, starting with a visit from police in October after he trashed a New York City hotel room. In January, he supposedly spent $26,000 on prostitutes during a cocaine-fueled Las Vegas weekend. Then, at the end of that month, he was hospitalized after a night of partying with porn stars. Since then, his popular sitcom, “Two and a Half Men,” was put on ice after his substance abuse woes coupled with what was perceived as anti-Semitic inappropriateness (he called “Two and a Half Men” creator Chuck Lorre by his “ethnic” name, Chaim Levine) got the best of him.

Throughout, there have been interviews — lots of them — in which he’s appeared increasingly agitated and off-balance emotionally. Demands this week for a $3 million salary per episode and threats to sue his former employer come to mind.

Sheen’s no newcomer to parenting. A father of five, he also has two young daughters who live with their mother, actress Denise Richards, and an adult daughter. But his parenting philosophies are hard to pin down. In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Sheen sounded every bit the responsible family man when he told the talk show host he hasn’t had drugs in the house when the kids are home. “If it was my weekend then we would go somewhere else…those things just don’t go together. That’s just common sense and courtesy,” he said. (More on Time.comAttachment Parenting: The Root of all Evil? Erica Jong Thinks So)

But in talking with TMZ, he sounded downright rebellious as he defended his lifestyle. “Lead by example and teach your kids right and wrong,” says Sheen. “If my right and wrong is a little bit different than anybody else, then my kids will be different too.”

But the twins don’t need a dose of difference at their young age; they need consistency and caring. Engaged parents demonstrate this through emotional availability — making eye contact, for example, or laughing when a baby laughs. Substance abuse can seriously impair healthy parent-child interaction. Schedules and routines start to blur, with no distinct mealtimes or bedtimes.

While Sheen’s girlfriends may have assumed some of the childcare duties and helped Sheen out, anointing a porn star as caregiver is of questionable merit.

“Having sexual relations with your child’s babysitter is a blurring of boundaries,” says Abbott. “It’s almost too obvious for words.”